“When in doubt, tell the truth.”
The summer is heating up and secrets heat up our lives, too. Last week, I wrote about The Good Lie, and secrets are part of the lies; usually of omission. Occasionally, we tell little white lies and at times, they can be appropriate or helpful. I can’t think of a good reason to keep a secret for a long period of time. Yes, at times we need to hold onto an idea or a secret someone told us carry for them. However, to carry a secret to our graves is not a helpful thing to do. In my work as a facilitator I see many ill effects from such secrets.
There are so many examples of how secrets distort the past and hurt our future. In the Family Constellation work I do, which is a group oriented experiential process where people “stand in for” or represent family members for a member of the group in order to see important dynamics in a person’s life which had not been seen, and so much more (check out Family Constellations on my website, to learn more), we are often surprised by what is revealed. An example which comes to mind involves a client who was feeling very angry with her husband, and anger in general. In her constellation, the energy was revealed that her father had an affair during the war in which a child was born, and her mother knew nothing consciously of the affair or the child. She herself knew nothing of the child until just very recently. In fact, during the movements of the constellation, the representatives and their movements showed that both her father and her mother were “looking” at something in the past. As I began asking her questions about this to find out what she knew, she remembered the man, her half-brother and had previously forgotten about him even until this moment. This secret, the affair, and the child had eaten at her mother and this woman’s relationship with her mother their whole lives. Sometimes during the constellation experience, a secret is revealed, or the fact that there is a great secret, but the actual events had been forgotten. Even in my own life, I have seen how a secret kept regarding the true parent of a child is so hurtful to the family.
We usually keep the secrets to supposedly save another from hurt. Mostly this “saves” the person keeping the secret from hurt or humiliation or embarrassment. In my father’s life and these stories are often revealed over Sunday breakfasts, he tells the story of his father and a great secret. He was a Depression baby and his father wasn’t able to find a job. His mother worked for a few years, and when he was just a young boy, his father went away for a year or two. They lived in Chicago, and his father left supposedly for Detroit for a job. There was lot of speculation around his activities and movements during that time when he was gone, and dad and his mother lived at times with his father’s parents and family, and at times in their own small apartment where dad’s bedroom was a closet. Later there was a discussion between my father and his aunt, his mother’s sister. He was demanding to know what happened in Milwaukee, as he had a feeling there was a great secret which was important to him. His aunt refused to tell him and just said to him that some things are too bad to tell and that the secret would go to the grave with her. And it did. We can speculate, and we do. We guess that he was in jail, that he was involved in some shady activities and such as that. My father has spent the last 18 years of his life atoning for something by being compelled to give all his money to Nigerians, people from Amsterdam, Haitians and so on. He could not keep is money and even lost his house to people who professionally scam elders. Secrets do not bode well.
When we keep secrets we are really trying to protect ourselves from some feeling. Can you think of a time where keeping a secret for a long time, or carrying it your grave was helpful? In my experience, they are a great cause for future suffering of our children and our children’s children. When we own our true selves, the dark sides, and the light sides, we have an opportunity for growth. In doing so, even in feeling guilt, loss, embarrassment, etc., we honor who we are so that we can become more whole, healthy and vital individuals. This is not only for us, but a legacy for our future.
Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results:
Take a few minutes and look back on your life. Look at yours personally, and the lives of your parents. Have you ever told a lie or kept a secret, for a long time that boded well? Think back on keeping that secret; yours or a family members or a friends….how did it turn out? What were you hiding from in your own secret? Write out what you find. What might your parents have been hiding from? What feelings are involved? How did the secrets affect others? In owning our own actions and thoughts, is where the richness is for our own growth.